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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 237

Sandy Hook, New Jersey, near "Kidd's tree," and the clay banks of the Atlantic highlands back of that point, are suspected hiding-places; but the cairn or knoll called Old Woman's Hill, at the highlands, is not haunted by Kidd's men, as used to be said, but by the spirit of a discontented squaw. This spirit the Indians themselves drove away with stones.

At Oyster Point, Maryland, lived Paddy Dabney, who recognized Kidd from an old portrait on meeting him one evening in 1836. He was going home late from the tavern when a light in a pine thicket caused him to turn from the road. In a clearing among the trees, pervaded by a pale shine which seemed to emanate from its occupants, a strange company was playing at bowls. A fierce-looking reprobate who was superintending the game glanced up, and, seeing Paddy's pale face, gave such a leap in his direction that the Irishman fled with a howl of terror and never stopped till he reached his door, when, on turning about, he found that the phantom of the pirate chief had vanished. The others, he conceived, were devils, for many a sea rover had sold himself to Satan. Captain Teach, or Blackbeard, proved as much to his crew by shutting himself in the hold of his ship, where he was burning sulphur to destroy rats, and withstanding suffocation for several hours; while one day a dark man appeared on board who was not one of the crew at the sailing, and who had gone as mysteriously as he came on the day before the ship was wrecked. It was known that Kidd had buried his Bible in order to ingratiate the evil one.

A flat rock on the north shore of Liberty Island, in New York harbor, was also thought to mark the place of this pervasive wealth of the pirates. As late as 1830, Sergeant Gibbs, one of the garrison at the island, tried to unearth it, with the aid of a fortune-teller and a recruit, but they had no sooner reached a box about four feet in length than a being with wings, horns, tail, and a breath, the latter palpable in blue flames, burst from the coffer. Gibbs fell unconscious into the water and narrowly escaped drowning, while his companions ran away, and the treasure may still be there for aught we know.

Back in the days before the Revolution, a negro called Mud Sam, who lived in a cabin at the Battery, New York City, was benighted at about the place where One Hundredth Street now touches East River while waiting there for the tide to take him up the Sound. He beguiled the time by a nap, and, on waking, he started to leave his sleeping place under the trees to regain his boat, when the gleam of a lantern and the sound of voices coming up the bank caused him to shrink back into the shadow. At first he thought that he might be dreaming, for Hell Gate was a place of such repute that one might readily have bad dreams there, and the legends of the spot passed quickly through his mind: the skeletons that lived in the wreck on Hen and Chickens and looked out at passing ships with blue lights in the eye-sockets of their skulls; the brown fellow, known as "the pirate's spuke," that used to cruise up and down the wrathful torrent, and was snuffed out of sight for some hours by old Peter Stuyvesant with a silver bullet; a black-looking scoundrel with a split lip, who used to brattle about the tavern at Corlaer's Hook, and who tumbled into East River while trying to lug an iron chest aboard of a suspicious craft that had stolen in to shore in a fog. This latter bogy was often seen riding up Hell Gate a-straddle of that very chest, snapping his fingers at the stars and roaring Bacchanalian odes, just as skipper Onderdonk's boatswain, who had been buried at sea without prayers, chased the ship for days, sitting on the waves, with his shroud for a sail, and shoving hills of water after the vessel with the plash of his hands.


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